I'm a bookworm of the highest caliber! If you see me, I'll probably be reading. There's nothing I love more than finding a good book, and then sharing it with the world!
This book is....
The characters aren't bad. The story isn't honestly all that bad either! It's just slow, and that's a shame. I'm listening to the audio and my brain keeps wandering to other things.
If you have an Instagram account, and would like to win a book, I'm hosting a giveaway! :)
It ends 2/24 at 6pm PST. Winner gets their choice of book up to $15 and (if you have a U.S. mailing address) a pick of bookmarks from Lexy Olivia's shop. Trust me. You want one of those. They are GORGEOUS.
This book is EVERYTHING. I'd give it 6 stars if I could, because it has been a long, long time since a book has completely gutted me like this one did. I don't even know what else to say about it, to be honest. It's just so honest. So raw. Watching these two boys, at a time in their life when they are discovering who they are, from two very different families, it all just made for a book that I couldn't stop falling in love with. This book is perfection.
Was I eagerly awaiting that first real kiss? Yes, yes I was. Was I hoping beyond hope that they would each come to understand how much they truly loved one another? You bet your behind I was.
I'm in love.
Well now, this was a lot of fun! I already knew that June and I would get along famously. After all, she's an accomplished Oxford professor, loves her grumpy old grandfather, and simply wants to make a name for herself in the world of archaeology. What's not to love? My only hope was that her journey would be just as exciting as she was shaping up to be. Happily, that was exactly the case!
Massive love goes to Emily Harper for crafting such enjoyable characters. Although I already knew I'd love June, it was really her grandfather that stole my heart. His giggle worthy attempts at complimenting June, his deep dislike of trousers (I feel you on that, Professor), and his need to keep his accomplishments in the forefront of his mind, were all things that endeared him to me. Pairing him with June, who just didn't know how to handle him at all times, was perfection. I loved watching them interact, and thought he added a perfect spice to the mystery!
Now, the mystery itself, shall we? I thought Harper did a brilliant job at laying out all the breadcrumbs as June fell further down the rabbit hole. From the moment she was inducted into the secret "Alliance" guarding the shield, I knew that things were going to get interesting. What I didn't expect was how much fun this whole mystery would be. As June and her rather unusual entourage searched for answers, I breathlessly followed after them. There was the perfect amount of humor, mixed in with all the action. As I said, a ton of fun.
Am I ready for the next book? Absolutely, I am! Which, thankfully, I also have in my possession. Expect to see a review of that book as well, very soon. While you wait, pick up June Jenson and the Shield of Quell! It's well worth your time!
So it should be no surprise that Merrow caught my eye. Just look at that lovely cover. I dare anyone to pass up a book that clearly shows that mermaids will be involved. I'm a lover of all things fantastical, but mermaids have a very big piece of my heart. Alas, imagine my disappointment when I found out that, in fact, there may or may not actually be any mermaids hiding in Merrow. If you're looking for a very literary book, with a lot of descriptive writing, this is it. If you're looking for a book that focuses on mermaids, you may want to look elsewhere.
Let's start with the good. First off, Neen Marrey was a character that I could absolutely get behind. She was strong, hardworking, kind, and honest to a fault. I loved that she felt realistic and, most of all, that her relationship with her Aunt was always perfect. Watching the two of them go through ups and downs, while still remembering to support one another despite what was thrown in their path, made me smile. Families, whatever their makeup, aren't always perfect, and I appreciated Braxton-Smith for highlighting that. I also very much enjoyed the story telling in this book. Neen's family history is passed down orally, which was quite a treat.
Now, as far as what bothered me, you'll actually find that my issue with this book is the same with the last review I wrote on this blog. If there is one thing I can't abide, it's books that rely solely on lyrical writing and purple prose, ignoring the actual world that they are building. Merrow reads beautifully. It's lilting, and moves like the ocean waves. What it doesn't do, is ever really pick up speed. This is a slow read and, truth be told, one that is very easy to skim. Neen's ultimate hunt for the fate of her mother was an interesting plot point but, since there didn't seem to be any actual mermaids here, one that I quickly lost track of. I still loved the family dynamic, and Neen's growth, but that initial reason I started reading this had gone out the window and so had the majority of my attention span.
As I said above, if you're looking for a book that is lyrical and reads like a folktale, then Merrow is absolutely for you. If, like I was, you're looking for a fantastical tale of mermaids? Well, you'd be better off looking elsewhere. I can see the draw to this book, and I know that many will love it from beginning to end. I just wasn't able to count myself among that number.
I'm sorry I keep forgetting to be on here, all! I got so used to this site being slow, and so used to updating my reading progress on Goodreads, that I've honestly fallen out of the habit of checking in here. I'm sorry guys. I MISS YOU! I'm going to have to build a habit all over again.
Please accept this picture of Luna sniffing books, and all my book updates over the next 20 minutes, as a peace offering. *HUGS*
*tries to remember the last time she posted a Luna picture*
*wonders if it's too soon to post another*
*shrugs and posts anyway*
MY BAAAABBBYYYYYY. She's been in an extra cuddly mood lately, which I absolutely don't mind. Well... except when she sits her butt right on my chest, or directly onto the book I'm currently reading while laying on the grass. Luna time is all the time. Reading only gets in the way of Luna time, apparently.
5 more days and she'll be 9 months!
Unfortunately, I was not as impressed with Caraval as I expected to be. Which, trust me, shocked me just as much as it might shock you. Books like this, with themes of magic and intrigue are usually my bread and butter. I wholly expected to be swept away by this story. If Caraval had spent more time with the world building and character building, instead of so much time with sweeping purple prose, I really think this would have been a winner for me. More on that below.
First off, Scarlett is a tough character to love. Although I adored her connection with her sister, and applauded her fierce protectiveness, there wasn't much else about Scarlett that endeared her to me. She was frustrating, to say the least. I absolutely don't mind a character who puts others above themselves, especially when it comes to family. However the lack of character development in this case drove me mad. Scarlett barely learned. She barely grew. She made the same mistakes over and over, while lamenting her situation instead of doing something about it. I was only just starting to see a spark of a woman who might have gained something from all of this, when the book ended.
My other big issue, as I mentioned above, was that no real love was given to the world that Scarlett and her sister inhabited. From the island that they felt imprisoned on, to the surrounding islands, all the way out to Caraval itself, all of it was just implied. Here is an island. It holds magic. This man who has a lot of power, due to a very quickly told backstory, holds a game here that you might win a wish out of. Done, and done. I was given only the briefest glimpse into anything, even when Scarlett was running all over the game itself. Again, frustrating. I'd have loved to see much less purple prose, and much more actual description. I wanted the world brought to life for me, and I truly believe it would have helped massively.
I believe I truly understand why a lot of people adore this book. The concept of a magical island, the idea of a game that pushes the very folds of reality, is a fascinating thing. If only it had been more fleshed out, and given much more attention, I would have fallen in love too. My Fantasy driven mind demands a foothold in any new book I read. A place that is described beautifully enough that I can find myself there in an eyeblink. Caraval lacked that for me, and so the story just felt flat.
Me: "These women don't really seem like they should be out in the wilderness. I bet something bad is going to happen."
*something bad happens*
Me: "Yup, called it."
*something else bad happens*
Me: "Oh, crap. That sucks."
*something else bad happens*
Me: "Well, they're going to die..."
Mind you.. I'm not even done with this book yet. Taking bets. There are 4 women. Who thinks at least 2 aren't going to make it to the end of this book. In the words of Family Guy... DAMN NATURE, YOU SCARY!
Katherine Kellgren's voice is the one thing keeping me solid today. Her ability to pull you into the story with her voice has always impressed me, but this book is really letting her vocal abilities shine. More than once today I found myself with my eyes closed, following along in my mind. Maybe not the best way to work... I suppose. It definitely kept me from imploding today though.
I'm loving this book, and very sad I set it on the backburner for so long.
Can someone please just take this whole book, and magically apply it to my life? Ever since the concept of hygge was first introduced to me (thank you bookish friends!) I've been obsessed with it. Why wouldn't you want to make your space comfortable and happy? Fung Shui is so overrated. I'm all about hygge.
This book is wonderful. It lays out everything from the history of hygge, to which lighting is best for this concept. On a day when I was feeling absolutely mad with stress and worry, I opened this book and fell into the pages. I was surrounded by ideas of warm drinks, quiet time with friends, candlelight, and even cozy socks. It inspired me to go out and buy a lamp for my reading nook, so I can cozy up under a blanket and read by a softer light than our crazy "day time" living room lights.
I needed this so much, and I didn't even know it until it came into my life.
So remember I said that I took a step back for a bit? Yeah, I did it in the interest of self care. It's a tough job being an empathetic person in the middle of a time when it feels hopeless. That, and I got so tired of fighting with people on my timelines about political things. I have that fight in me, but sometimes I need to take a break and go heal a bit. One can only take so many hits before they need some rest. I'm back though, and feeling good.
I promised myself that 2017 would be all about self care, and remembering to do things that mattered to me. Even if they seemed trivial.
So far I've:
* Started learning hand lettering. Look, massive props to all the people out there who do this. It is so difficult, but also so relaxing. I doodled all over a page yesterday, and practiced writing my name in all kinds of swirly, block lettered and faux calligraphy ways. Writing with a brush pen is FUN. I think I found a new addiction.
* Started journaling more often, especially when I feel stressed. Even if I only write 2 or 3 lines. I used to be so concerned about filling up a page. Silly, silly me.
* Subscribed to a sticker club! I've been trying to find a reason to journal more, and to use a planner, and stickers sounded like the perfect motivation. Hey, I'm a big kid okay. I LOVE stickers. I also love surprises. No brainer right there.
* Done a little retail therapy, mixed in with a "read outside the box" goal. I've been wanting to read Lewis' MARCH series for a while, and then the whole drama happened with our lovely new President and I thought, "Hey, what better time to purchase those than now?" Thank you Amazon.
* Watched more television. I used to feel guilty watching tv. Now I binge it like there's no tomorrow when I don't feel like reading. I'm plowing through Penny Dreadful at the moment. I just finished A Series of Unfortunate Events, and next up is Fargo. There's so much good tv to devour out there!
Now that I'm feeling good, I'm back! Here to bug you all with incessant Luna photos, the occasional review, and book swaps galore. I missed you all. I'll also try to remind you to do your own self care. Read an old favorite. Eat some chocolate. Go for a run. Snuggle a puppy. Take care of yourself friends. It's going to be a long year.
Gorgeous. Stunning. Absolutely breathtaking. Any of those words and phrases barely skim the surface of how impressed I was by this well-woven tale. Fairy tales will always have a special place in my heart. I relish the feeling of being swept off into a new world or, in this case, a world that is right on the borders of our very own. Arden's tale pulls together Russian folklore into a tale that will have you breathless with equal parts excitement and fear. It's a beautiful thing.
Characters like Vasilisa have always been my favorite. Stubborn, willful, strong to a point where they actually cause others to fear their strangeness. Vasilisa is a woman on the fringes. She's a character who doesn't conform to norms, and is better because of it. In other words, she's everything I aspire to be. Arden wastes no time in pushing Vasilisa towards her ultimate fate and, to her credit, Vasilisa faces it head on. I was mesmerized by her, and it made this story fly by. I could have read many more pages following this amazing woman.
As mentioned above, the Russian folklore is really the star of the show here though. As the children sat around the fire, to hear tales of bravery and death, so did I. Arden brought to life the winter demon, his black-hearted brother, and all the household spirits that populated this story. As Vasilisa grew to know them, and love and hate them as called for, so did I. I found myself so immersed in this story, that I actually felt angry when people pulled me away from it. My one wish was to find out what became of our brave protagonist, and the family that she would do anything to protect.
The Bear and the Nightingale is my first five-starred review of 2017, and well deserving of that honor. This is the kind of book that you buy in hardcover, so that it will survive many re-reads to come. If this isn't already on your reading list, it should be. It really, really should.
I first discovered Josh Sundquist by reading his memoir, and giggling the entire way through it. I'm not generally a non-fiction reader, but I devoured that book. That meant that when I found out that Sundquist had written a YA book, I knew I had to read it. I couldn't wait to see how his wit and honesty translated to a fiction novel.
First off, I have to give credit where credit is due. It's very obvious from the first few pages of this story that Sundquist did a tremendous amount of research on visual impairment, and worked hard to make sure that he was accurately portraying Will's day to day routine. Pair that with a lovingly crafted character, complete with Sundquist's signature wit, and you have a story that is a joy to read. I fell in love with Will, and the rest was history.
When the experimental surgery came into the picture, I found myself riveted. Everything was described in intricate detail, but it never felt overbearing. Instead, I found myself in the same situation as Will. Wondering if the surgery would be worth it, cheering him on when he was doing well, and lamenting with him when things weren't going well. His parents were so wonderfully supportive, if a little over involved at times, and there was this whole aura of growth and love to this book. It was a happy place to be.
Even if the friendship turned romance hadn't been a main portion of this book, I would have still loved it. Still, I couldn't help but fall for the slow growth of Cecily and Will's relationship. Cecily's acceptance of Will, her ability to open things up for him with wonderful analogies, tugged at my heart strings. I knew that fight was imminent, and of course I was right. What is YA without teenage tension? Still, it all felt so perfect. Not a single sentence of this book felt out of place. It all worked to build up Will, and show how amazing a person he was.
I'd highly recommend this for your reading list! If it's not there already, it's well worth a second look.
I know I haven't been around, and it's totally not your fault! I missed all of you tons, but this site was being a pain, work was insane, and I needed to step back.
I'll be here again now. Trust me. You won't be able to get rid of me.
Please take this picture of Luna as a sign that I'm still alive, and that she's getting HUGE. 8 months old, and 80 lbs. She's my big girl.
Trenton Lee Stewart had me charmed with The Mysterious Benedict Society. I fell in love with the quick moving, fluid and well-written story line that unfolded on the pages. To say I had high hopes for The Secret Keepers would be an understatement, which probably contributed to disappointment. This book isn't quite up to bar that I had set for it.
First off, this book is honestly much longer than it should be. It stretches the story out to the point where, quite often, there is nothing actually happening on the pages. I can absolutely forgive a book for starting out slowly, as the background and characters are set in place. This book, however, never actually picks up speed. It meanders along, at a plodding pace, to the point that I skimmed a fair amount of pages per chapter and didn't feel like I'd missed anything. The story line itself is solid, and interesting. It's just bogged down by the length it needs to fill.
I also just never fell in love with our main character. Reuben never felt brave to me, only foolhardy and impulsive. While I could see Stewart trying valiantly to outline the reasons why Reuben behaved as he did, it still never felt truthful to me. I'm absolutely enamored with the idea of a boy who loves his mother so much he'd do anything to protect her. Past that, however, it just fell apart for me. I admit that Penny did increase my interest for a while though. So there's that! She's a little spitfire.
Whenever I read a book that is aimed at the Middle Grade crowd, I always try to think about it from that perspective as well. After working with that age of children for many years, and being an avid reader myself well before that age group, I feel comfortable settling myself back into that mindset. That being said, this book doesn't seem like one that would capture their imaginations. It lacks excitement. It was missing that piece that keeps you riveted, tearing through the pages to find out what happens next. Even the ultimate confrontation, the big climax, didn't really come through. Both Middle Grade Jessica and adult Jessica would have felt that lack of real energy. I'd love to recommend this one, but I really can't. Go forth and get lost in the charming world of The Mysterious Benedict Society instead.